Interfaces of the Word

Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture

Walter J. Ong
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Interfaces of the Word
    Book Description:

    In Interfaces of the World, Walter J. Ong explores the effects on consciousness of the word as it moves through oral to written to print and electronic culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-6631-1
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 9-14)

    • 1 Transformations of the Word and Alienation
      (pp. 17-50)

      Orality, Writing, and Disjuncture Alienation, a favorite diagnosis variously applied to modem man’s plight since at least Hegel and Feuerbach, has not been commonly thought of in terms of the technological history of the word, although some attention, more analytic than historical or clinical, has been given by structuralists to certain tensions attendant on writing.¹ Yet it would appear that the technological inventions of writings, print, and electronic verbalization, in their historical effects, are connected with and have helped bring about a certain kind of alienation within the human lifeworld. This is not at all to say that these inventions...


    • 2 The Writer’s Audience Is Always a Fiction
      (pp. 53-81)

      Although there is a large and growing literature on the differences between oral and written verbalization, many aspects of the differences have not been looked into at all, and many others, although well known, have not been examined in their full implications. Among these latter is the relationship of the socalled “audience” to writing as such, to the situation that inscribed communication establishes and to the roles that readers as readers are consequently called on to play. Some studies in literary history and criticism at times touch near this subject, but none, it appears, take it up in any historical...

    • 3 Media Transformation: The Talked Book
      (pp. 82-91)

      When you talk about the media today, one question constantly recurs: Do the new media wipe out the old? Or, more particularly, has television wiped out books? Since no moderately alert person who notices bookstalls or the habits of persons around him could possibly believe that books have disappeared, the asking of the question becomes itself interesting. Something besides the facts is disturbing him. Television and the whole of electronics must be doing something, he feels. What is it that they are doing?

      Two different and indeed polarized answers are often given to this question. One answer is that electronics...

    • 4 African Talking Drums and Oral Noetics
      (pp. 92-120)

      The primary orality in which human thought and verbal expression is initially and fundamentally lodged undergoes other metamorphoses besides those which lead through writing and print to the electronic management of thought and expression. Most of these metamorphoses have not been studied in detail. What effect, for example, did the Morse code have on the way news is formulated by journalists? Or how did use of the semaphore alphabet curtail normal oral redundancies or otherwise affect the way marine and military directives were formulated? How did nonalphabetic signaling, such as the use of varicolored flags, each the equivalent of a...

    • 5 “I See What You Say”: Sense Analogues for Intellect
      (pp. 121-144)

      Bernard Lonergan’s philosophical investigations of man’s noetic activities are among the richest investigations of this vast subject that we have. Together with other work of his, they have warranted the calling of an international congress devoted to the discussion of what he has had to say on this and other matters. His best known work on the nature of knowledge and of knowing is the still seminal book Insight (1957), but his other contributions on this subject are vast. In a little-known talk on “Consciousness and the Trinity” given in the late spring of 1963 at the North American College...


    • 6 Typographic Rhapsody: Ravisius Textor, Zwinger and Shakespeare
      (pp. 147-188)

      Commonplaces and Their Significance Writing in Chapters in Western Civilization, Professor Paul Oskar Kristeller notes that “the frequency of quotations and of commonplaces repeated in the moral literature in the Renaissance gives to all but its very best products an air of triviality that is often very boring to the modem critical reader.”¹ The Renaissance exploitation of commonplace material is of course not restricted to moral treatises. Such material shows everywhere through the Renaissance, from speculative theology and medical treatises to lyric and dramatic poetry, where, however, its use is often less cumbersome than among the moralists. And at its...

    • 7 From Epithet to Logic: Miltonic Epic and the Closure of Existence
      (pp. 189-212)

      In 1672, two years before his death, John Milton published a logic textbook which he had written, it is quite certain, sometime in the years 1641–1647, and most probably sometime during the years 1645-1647, when he was teaching his two nephews and some other boys. The work is in Latin, as textbooks in all subjects normally had always been in Western Europe from classical times. Milton’s concern with logic, evinced by this book, shows itself throughout the corpus of his writings, as many modern studies have made clear.¹ Nowhere perhaps does this concern show itself more than in Paradise...

    • 8 The Poem as a Closed Field: The Once New Criticism and the Nature of Literature
      (pp. 213-229)

      The new criticism and the poetry which arose with it deserve to be examined in fuller perspectives than those in which they have commonly been viewed. Both are still too often described largely as ad hoc reactions to what went immediately before. The Hulme-Eliot-Pound-Leavis-Richards-Ransom kind of criticism is set against the impressionistic and often autobiographical performances of William Hazlitt, Walter Pater (“the presence that thus rose so strangely beside the waters”), or Oscar Wilde. The doctrine of clear, precise images which entered into the fiber of the New Criticism as well as into the more or less contemporaneous imagist poetry...

    • 9 Maranatha: Death and Life in the Text of the Book
      (pp. 230-271)

      The Bible is an altogether special case in the history of textuality.* In its own history as a text it relates uniquely both to oral antecedents and, interiorly, to itself. The unusual problems it presents throw light on textuality as such, and the study of orality and textuality throws light on the Bible and the character of the message it proclaims.

      It is commonplace that the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, as compared to other sacred writings, have a special relationship to time. This relationship has commonly been thought of in terms of the attitudes toward time expressed or implied in...

    • 10 From Mimesis to Irony: Writing and Print as Integuments of Voice
      (pp. 272-302)

      The present study grew out of an assignment to consider the subject “Response to Vision: Judging the Value of Literary Content.” This is a vast subject. In one or another guise, questions concerning the value of literary content have woven their way through most of twentieth-century Western poetics and literary theory, from the Russian Formalism of the first third of this century through the succeeding Prague Structuralism, the American New Criticism of the second third of the century and its British connections, and the French Formalism running from Ferdinand de Saussure, with late detours through Claude Levi-Strauss, down to Tzvetan...


    • 11 Voice and the Opening of Closed Systems
      (pp. 305-342)

      Studies in this book have treated the history of the word often, though not entirely, in tenus of sequestration, interposition, diaeresis or division, alienation, and closed fields or systems. The history of the word since its encounter and interaction with technology when the first writing systems were devised some six thousand years ago has been largely a matter of such separations and systems. By comparison with oral speech, writing is itself a closed system: a written text exists on its own, physically separate from any speaker or hearer, as no real spoken word can exist. Print creates a world even...

  8. Index
    (pp. 343-352)